Wednesday, December 08, 2010

How to Overcome the Bah-Humbug

I remember when I was a teenager (I could drive, so I must have been 16 or 17), I drove myself to confession at Good Shepherd Catholic Church one Saturday during Advent.  I remember kneeling behind the screen and bawling my eyes out about how Christmas was so commercialized and how I couldn't find the special feeling that is supposed to come at Christmastime.  I was just distraught.  I was so upset that halfway through the confession, I jumped up to come around the screen and face the priest.  He thought I was leaving and called out to me, "I haven't given you absolution yet".  I think I surprised him.  I can't imagine what he was thinking, to see a teen so upset about Christmas.  Sadly, I don't remember what he told me.

Over the years, I tried and tried to get that special feeling. I couldn't seem to find it.  Christmas started at Thanksgiving and concluded with a tremendous letdown after the last present was open on Christmas day. Oh, but wait! There's the stocking. Open that and it's over again. Bah-humbug.

As I grew older, my family started to drift away from the church for a while. I went to Mass alone most of the time. I’m not sure I could’ve articulated why I felt it was so important to go, my faith wasn’t so deep. I just knew I needed to be there. I continued searching. 
I understood what Christmas is about and I loved it.  But where was that much desired special feeling?  I sought it out at parties and the mall, with Christmas movies and carols, but, not surprisingly, it eluded me.

It wasn't until I had my own children and sought to give them what I was missing, that I FINALLY figured it out! Advent is not Christmas.  I had been spending my whole Advent shopping, decorating, working, studying, doing all the stuff you do to get ready for something, thinking it was Christmas season.  All that time I'd kill myself to make a nice Christmas only to be let down when Christmas day was over!

Advent is NOT Christmas!  Advent is the new year in the Church and the time to prepare for Christmas.  Prepare not just our homes and our shopping list, but, most importantly, our hearts. How did we do it? Well, we started small by celebrating St. Nicholas day, teaching the kids who St. Nicholas really is and that his purpose is to bring us to Jesus.  We added traditions like making a soft crib for Jesus with our good deeds (1 piece of straw for each sacrifice), we lit the advent wreath at dinner. We did a lot of little things.  Every little act we added to our family tradition made our hearts more open to the coming season of Christmas.  It began to feel holy.

How to fix the Christmas day letdown, though?  All that work for one day seemed a bit much.  It suddenly dawned on me that Christmas is a SEASON, not a day.  We began to celebrate the entire season, and what a difference it made!  On Christmas day, we replaced the Advent candles with white candles and lit them every night, we talked about the feast days of the Holy Family and all the Saints of the Christmas season.  I made special dinners and read about these holy people who are there to bring us to Christ.  We put on a play at Epiphany with Kevin playing King Herod and the kids as the 3 Wise Men.  Last year, I played Mary and Anne-Marie was Jesus.  We held back gifts at Christmas for the kids to bring to baby Jesus at Epiphany and then they got to open them.  We kept our decorations up and watched Christmas movies and generally kept the season until after the baptism of the Lord (the first Luminous mystery of the Rosary) and technically we could keep them up until Candlemas, the Presentation of the Lord at the temple.
 Did it make a difference?  Undeniably! When the whole world turns back to regular life the day after Christmas, or New Year's day, at best, there is no more music, clearance sales galore, taking down of the lights and decorations, the Bah-Humbug starts to show itself in full force. Coming home to a decorated house and continuing to share in the joy with our family makes all the difference in the world.  It becomes special and holy.  That elusive feeling of joy and warmth continues to grow and take it's rightful place in our hearts.  The Bah-Humbug has no room to fester or take root.  The joy of the season lives on and sustains us through the cold, gray days of January and February and gives us momentum to keep holy Ordinary time.  We come closer as a family and snuggle up around its Center, Jesus, that sweet, precious baby. We give thanks that our Lord humbled Himself to be born a baby in a stable on a cold night in Bethlehem to ultimately give His Body and Blood for our salvation, if only we will continue to choose Him above the world.

Oh, how I love Advent and Christmas!  How much I love our Lord, Jesus Christ!  May His peace be with you and may you find that special connection with Him this wonderful time of year and carry it with you all year long.

Resources I like:
Catholic Culture
Catholic Icing
Women for Faith and Family


  1. Great blog Mary! Thanks for the reminder of what is really important!

  2. The picture of your home looks like a Christmas card!! Beautiful!


"Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person." ~Colossians 4:6 (NASB)